You might be a little nervous when your dentist suggests a tooth extraction – after all, doesn’t it sound a little extreme? And what will you do with the gap in your smile? The truth is that removing teeth is actually a very common dental procedure; furthermore, there are many options for replacing missing teeth. Here’s what you need to know when your dentist says it’s time for a tooth to go.
Why Do I Need a Tooth Extraction?
When tooth decay reaches the pulp inside the tooth, bacteria can enter and cause an infection. Often it can be cured with root canal therapy or antibiotics, but in severe cases there may not be any choice but to remove the tooth. Sometimes, if a patient has a compromised immune system, just being at risk for infection can be enough of a reason for extraction.
Another possible reason to pull a tooth is if the mouth is too crowded, which can affect orthodontic treatment and prevent new teeth from erupting. Gum disease might cause loose teeth that necessitate removal. And of course, it’s a common practice in the United States to extract wisdom teeth that can cause oral damage.
Removing teeth is a routine procedure performed millions of times by dentists each year; simple extractions are for regular teeth while surgical extractions (such as for wisdom teeth) are done when the tooth in question hasn’t erupted yet.
How Can I Replace My Missing Teeth?
Even when an extraction is necessary, tasks like speaking and chewing can be more difficult with a missing tooth; fortunately, there are plenty of choices for replacement:
- Dental implants are small surgical posts placed into the jaw and topped with a crown. They can fuse with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration; this helps protect against bone loss that can happen with missing teeth and allows the implant to provide chewing power nearly equal to natural teeth.
- Dentures are a traditional solution for when multiple teeth are missing. Full dentures are used when all of the teeth on the jawbone are missing, but if only a few are gone, partial dentures can work. Some dentures are connected to implants, which can prevent slipping and bone loss.
- Bridges are fake teeth held in place by dental crowns; they can fill in gaps in your mouth and prevent the remaining teeth from shifting into the empty space.
Don’t panic if you’re told you need a tooth extraction; speak with your dentist so that you understand what needs to happen and what your options are for tooth replacement afterwards. Remember, losing a tooth is sometimes necessary for oral health, but that doesn’t mean your smile has to stay incomplete!
About the Author
Dr. Allan J. Milewski has been practicing dentistry for over 25 years and serves as president for the Medina County Dental Society; he is constantly learning about the latest treatment options available for patients. He provides numerous forms of restorative and cosmetic dentistry such as crowns and dental implants. For questions about tooth replacement at his practice, Medina Family Dentistry, visit his website or call (330) 725-2242.